Members of the University of Calgary Faculty Association recently approved a tentative new collective agreement and compensation package. Eighty-four per cent of voting members approved a package that will raise faculty salaries by four per cent, retroactive to July 1, 1999. TUCFA considers salary a key element in successfully recruiting and retaining quality faculty members.
"If we want to be a major research university, we need to catch up [to salary levels at other Canadian universities]," said Computer Science professor and principle negotiator for TUCFA Dr. Anton Colijn.
Beyond this year's four per cent, a further $2,250 across-the-board increase is slated for next year, representing an average three per cent raise. Salary discussions will reopen for the third year of the agreement. In addition, sessional instructors will see their minimum payment per half-course rise in stages from the previous $3,600 to $4,000 for Sept. 1, 2001.
"Our median salaries are about $10,000 per annum below top institutions in Canada now," said Associate Vice-president Human Resources Stuart McKinnon, who was also a member of the university's negotiating team. "The settlement over two years closes half the gap, assuming others stand still."
Half of the approximately 1630 eligible members cast ballots in one or both of the votes held on the two aspects of the agreement. On the salary package, 681 voted in favour, with 129 opposed. On the general collective agreement, which included changes to grievance procedures, leave provisions and disciplinary procedures, 749 voted in favour, with 68 opposed.
Students' Union President Rob South was encouraged by the deal.
"Eighty-four per cent of the faculty agreeing [to the salary provisions] means that in this world of heightened competition for professors, we stand a good chance of keeping quality profs," he said.
Colijn was less optimistic. He said the high percentage of voters approving the compensation agreement was not necessarily a ringing endorsement.
"Some people voted in favour out of a sense of resignation," said Colijn. "We all would have liked a bigger increase. It's a good outcome, but tempered."
Colijn, McKinnon and South all said that increased funding from the provincial government is necessary for the U of C to be competitive with the highest paying Canadian universities.
Students had mixed reactions to the news that professors are receiving a pay increase.
"I think they already make a lot of money," said second-year Management student Vince Kanasoot. "The only reason they get higher salaries is because we pay."
Third-year Fine Arts student Laura Chesman was more forgiving.
"Some of them are not getting nearly what they deserve," she said. "I would pay more [tuition] to have better profs."
Both Kanasoot and first-year General Studies student Kristin Gulka said they wanted salary increases to better reflect student evaluations of individual professors.
"[Salary] should be based more on how well the students think they teach than on how long they've been here," said Gulka.
According to McKinnon, apart from the increases set out in the collective agreement, which apply to all faculty, yearly salary increments for individual professors are, in fact, performances based. Department heads annually evaluate professors' job performance, taking student evaluations into account. The results are reviewed by the Faculty Promotions Committee, which includes student representation. Individual professors receive salary increments according to committee recommendations.
Ultimately, some students are more concerned about quality instruction than salary levels.
"It matters more that profs enjoy what they're doing and want to teach," said Kanasoot. "More money might get [more] qualified profs, but it doesn't mean they'll do a better job."